A blog with an agenda to publicize as well as inform walks a fine line. When it comes to publishers, journals, writers, and publicists trying to draw your eye to what they have to offer, there are some gems and some duds—even the class acts hit sour notes every so often. So it’s nice to enjoy a promotion completely on its own merits; even better if, in the end, you find yourself sold with no coercion at all.
One of my favorite features over the past month, Mobylives’ The copy-editor’s dilemma, wound up last week. The series was built around the often obscure and archaic language in Jean-Christophe Valtat’s Aurorarama, which came out from Melville House this past August:
When we first sent … Aurorarama to the copy editor the manuscript came back with a number of flagged words. Williwaw? Demiurge? Picnoleptic? They didn’t appear in the copy editor’s Webster’s. Surely they weren’t English? Perhaps Valtat, a Frenchman, had become confused? It turns out Valtat, a scholar of Victorian literature, Arctic exploration, and early English vernacular, knew more than most of us, and the words were all ones he had discovered in his literary research. Valtat’s vocabulary, it turns outs, is as lush, strange, and intoxicating as his fiction.
Over the next three weeks we got the lowdown on a miscellany of words: panopticon, hypnagogic, pandiculate, apperceive, and more. No breaking news, no literary gossip, just the delight of a weird lexicon along with images and etymology. I admit to being a sucker for the cover, too. The title type and glowing stars immediately made me flash on the old cover of Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale, another atmospheric cold-weather Victorian story. It’s a totally visceral reaction my part, but if Aurorarama enchants me the way Winter’s Tale did—I remember reading it during a particularly difficult move, sneaking moments hidden between stacks of dusty boxes to escape for a few pages at a time—it has a fan here.
And from a strictly practical blogger’s perspective, I like the way Mobylives has seduced the right audience in the right way, with vocabulary and ambience—well played. The series may be finished, but it’s fun reading nonetheless, and you’ll end up with some good new words that just might come in handy.